I picked up Ed Brubaker’s Winter Soldier: The Longest Winter on one of my periodic trips to the comics store, mostly on the basis of the juicy cover art and the blurb on the back — this one brings us up to date on Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s sidekick who was killed in World War II. Except he wasn’t.
The history gets filled in through the first couple of chapters in this collection, while the new story is starting to unfold — lots of flashbacks here, because the stories are twined together. Let’s just say that Bucky Barnes is the man who trained the guys who are part of the problem now. He also has to deal with Dr. Doom; Lucia von Bardas, who was, for a time, prime minister of Latveria, until Doom caught up with her; a mastermind who is behind a plot to plunge the world into war, who also hails from Bucky’s past; and a Doombot or two, for good measure. Bucky’s working with Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow, on this one, and, as one might expect, Nick Fury’s in the know.
Quite frankly, Ed Brubaker’s story is a little chaotic at the beginning, although it soon levels off and we have a coherent story line to follow. (Although I have to say, Captain America comes off as a real — well, he’s sort of hair-triggered.) Brubaker’s done a good job of filling in the backstory as the present story progresses, and the characterizations, while not as well-developed as we might wish, do add some depth, and after all, it’s a comic.
My big problem with this was Butch Guice’s art. He uses a rough-edged style, mostly fairly high contrast, and individual frames are often quite dense, even congested. There’s a bit more clarity in parts 3-5, where the inking was aided and abetted by Stefano Gaudiano, Brian Thies and Tom Palmer, but there is still the problem of legibility throughout. There are also frames that abruptly shift to a John Bolton-style near-impressionism that I found quit jarring. The color, by Bettie Breitweiser (mostly) wasn’t able to overcome the density. Coupled with the sometimes fragmented story line, it’s sometimes hard to figure out where we are.
All told, not my favorite in the Captain America/Avengers complex.